Monday, 8 June 2009

Russia – unlikely consumer champions

(By Philip Carnelley – Monday 8th June 2009 1:30 pm). We note that the Russian government is to bring an anti-trust action against Microsoft for ceasing to sell the XP version of Windows, saying that Microsoft must still offer XP while there is still demand for the product. One reason Microsoft is pulling out all the stops to launch Windows 7 (due in October) has been the rather adverse reaction to Vista. Microsoft still offers an option for Vista buyers to “downgrade” to XP, but I gather this will not be possible from Windows 7.

Indefinitely maintaining support for older software versions is costly. Microsoft won’t wish to be putting more resources into XP just as it’s looking to the roll-out of Windows 7. In the corporate world, longer (but paid-for) support timescales are more common, but there have been a number of spats between user groups and suppliers over this issue, including Oracle and SAP. Getting the right balance between maintaining customer satisfaction and driving profitability is not so easy. Indeed, in the current downturn, support fees are the mainstay of software companies’ income, as new licence sales plummet.

Could the Russian action herald a profound change in the economies of software companies’ support operations? There is certainly no love lost between the anti-trust regulators (especially the EU) and Microsoft. It will be interesting to see if other authorities take up the Russians’ initiative on behalf of their own consumers.

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